Sports Fanship Changes Across the Lifespan

Walter Gantz, Nicky Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Using two studies and two theoretical perspectives—socioemotional selectivity theory (SST) and social identity theory—this article examines the intensity of sports fanship across the adult lifespan. It is proposed that as adults age, emotional well-being increases, negative affect decreases, life satisfaction is enhanced, and self-identity is less dependent on group affiliation. All of these are likely to diminish the importance of sports fanship for most individuals over time. Adults aged 40 to 87 were surveyed in three data collections (combined N = 2,524). Study 1 used a 17-item measure to identify changes in sports fanship. Study 2 analyzed participants’ responses to an open-ended item that asked why their sports fanship decreased or increased over time. Results determined that most participants’ fanship significantly diminished with age. Key factors for this were lack of time, shifting priorities, and increasing maturity levels, with the latter marked by decreased passion. A minority of participants reported an increase in fanship, primarily because of a stronger connection to teams and the opportunity sports afforded them to spend time with their family and friends. Gender also mattered. The majority whose fanship decreased were male; the majority of those whose fanship increased were female.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-27
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication and Sport
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • gender
  • lifespan
  • social identity theory
  • socioemotional selectivity theory
  • sports fanship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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